Live Local, Live Small: An interview with NC House candidate Betsy Jordan

Sep 9 • FEATURE SIDEBAR, Live Local, NEWS & VIEWSNo Comments on Live Local, Live Small: An interview with NC House candidate Betsy Jordan

Encore continues its election coverage with Betsy Jordan, candidate for the North Carolina House District 20. She is running against incumbent Rick Catlin, who also received this questionnaire. On August 26th we celebrated the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Please, join me in honoring all those who struggled for half of our country’s population to have a voice in government by voting on November 4th.

Betsy Johnson

encore (e): Why did you decide to seek office?

Betsy Jordan (BJ): I realized something needed to be done in Raleigh. Decisions were made last session which appeared to be more about an ideology rather than the people of our community. When no one stepped up, I waited until the last day of filing eligibility and decided to run because I’d had enough. I could not sit by and watch my opponent [Rick Catlin], who has been in lock step with the 2013 legislative fringe agenda and personally led the charge that dismantled the film incentives, go unopposed in this election. My frustration over the tremendous damage he and his cohorts in the state legislature have done to our economy and public education system in just a single year was enough for me to throw my hat into the ring.

e: What is the central issue of this election for you?

BJ: With the severe economic blow we will receive [after] losing the $160 million projected by the film industry for next year, my first priority now is to save our economic base and create more jobs and industry. This involves incentives which are not always tax related. Public education is one of those incentives. I believe in providing for our children’s futures by supporting quality public education for all, which not only builds communities [but] attracts businesses and industry. It is my belief that there is no greater way to teach community, tolerance and peace than through our public education system. When we don’t have an integrated public education system, we create separation of our people, which leads to fractured communities, fear of others, conflict and war.

e: Where do you stand on fracking?

BJ: The only thing that trickles down is streams and toxins, and everything ends up in our Cape Fear River. One of the best things we have going for us are our beaches. Naturally, people here are more environmentally conscious than in other places, because we see it all and that is a good thing. I think we deserve to know what they are putting in our water. Some might say it would be worth going to prison in order to expose that information, which is what our newly adopted fracking laws, just passed this session, would have happen. 

I understand that we have energy demands, and we need to find out what we need to do to accomplish sustaining that demand. At the moment, the lowest cost, most intense method is through natural gas. I believe we receive enough of this supply through our pipeline agreements. Therefore, my preference is to delay fracking [and] perhaps never sign fracking contracts, because it puts our people’s drinking water at risk. I think fracking creates a precedence for one company to profit by endangering the lives of others. Duke Energy has done a good job of providing low-cost energy to us over the years, but in doing so they have made some poor decisions. Our current legislature has thus far failed to adopt a much-needed coal-ash clean-up bill, and Duke Energy’s powerful lobby may in the end influence them to make the people of NC pay for their mistakes. My mama taught me to clean up my mess. I believe that Duke needs to clean up theirs.

e: How will your platform support small business?

BJ: I have a plan to create a sustained revenue stream for our community, which will encourage small businesses by building our agriculture and manufacturing base. I have had personal experience with timber wholesale and manufacturing (which is a renewable resource), as well as with real estate and redevelopment. My family’s business supports 300 NC jobs (which means helping 300 NC families) through agribusiness (tree farming and replanting) and precision manufacturing (use of fiber optics in lumber production). Many of the principles I have first-hand knowledge of are useful in traditional industries, such as furniture manufacturing, production and wholesaling. New crop possibilities in this area—coffee, rice, tulips, and agave—can be grown here as our climate now allows this. 

New technologies and an emphasis on American grown products [constitute a] large acceptance and the cost effectiveness of these old-like-new possibilities. In the legislature today, there are “studies,” which my opponent voted to support, that place additional costs onto things. This raises the price of real estate in our state. ([It] is how the fracking law happened so quickly this session.) There is also a movement (supported by Mr. Catlin) to erode mortgage interest deduction. I believe this adds unnecessary burden to our economy when you think this all the way through. 

My platform involves eliminating any new costs to real-estate transactions, removing the cap on mortgage interest deductions, and doing what I can to encourage the redevelopment of existing properties. As our economy continues to move and approvals get quicker, the fear now surrounding home ownership will lessen. Once again we can be a state of homeownership.

I believe a basic function of government is to plant economic seeds, which foster job creation and support economic growth. In today’s economic climate, we must have smart economic incentives in order to remain competitive with other states. The NC film incentives, which required producers to spend their money first, is an example of such a possibility. Yes, there was an initial cost, but as it was determined and so obvious in this community, the impact of that industry growth more than paid for the initial outlay.   

e: How do you plan to generate income for our local economy?

BJ: We have lost a lot over this last legislative session, but I go to Raleigh with a plan to build the [film] industry again. I was on the NC Film Council for 12 years, which helped develop the current incentives. I am going back to the people who have been talking to me, because we have been doing everything to save this industry. We will come forward with a comprehensive plan to rebuild our great film and television industry, which this fringe-agenda legislature—along with my opponent—have worked so hard to dismantle. The current film incentives (which our representatives seem content to let expire) have  worked. The positive impact has caused the industry to grow at a fantastic rate, and pumped $1.5 billion dollars of direct spending into our state’s economy over the past seven years. This is a clean industry, which typically provides over 4,000 full-time jobs (2,000 of which our in our area), supports hundreds of businesses, is a huge booster for tourism, and is overall just great for our state. I will work tirelessly to bring it back. I will not give up on keeping NC a film and television state.

[As well], we have such a great climate [for agribusiness], which will allow us to expand our crop base by growing more coffee, agave, rice, etc. The manufacture and wholesale products made from these crops can make use of fiber optics. Our community-college system and university systems already are developing support for that kind of a base with job skills training.

We have a great environment to continue the development of medical and computer research and development companies, too. PPD and AAI are good examples of precision manufacturing, and there are others. We can target and encourage businesses like Red Hat, International Tire, etc. to locate here through using smart economic incentives.

e: Thoughts on the proposed sales tax cap?

BJ: When we elect people to represent us locally, we do so knowing that they live in the communities where they make the laws. This provides them with real knowledge about the impact those laws have on the people in their communities. The state legislature need to not overstep [their boundaries] by telling locally elected officials how to fund the laws they pass.

e: Thoughts on a national minimum wage? 

BJ: It needs to be raised. Many people are working two jobs and below subsistence. It’s not laziness or lack of work ethic. For the jobs out there, the pay is not adequate. It’s a cost to us all.

e: What do you think about at-large elections we have for council and commission? Would our citizens be better represented by ward-style elections? 

BJ: While it’s clear that electing people from the same neighborhood is not the right thing to do, it’s important that our city council and county commission officials represent their entire community. The fact that they must have support from their entire community means that everyone has a voice in their election. On the other hand, if it’s true that some part of our community is never represented, then it may be that ward-style works best in terms of adequate representation. We don’t want gridlock like we’ve had in the state legislature locally. Let’s put it to a vote.

e: What is your vision for our community in two years? Five years?

BJ: My vision for the years to come is to connect with our rural areas more effectively, so that we can function as more of a region, rather than just a city. [I envision us having] several new industries about managing renewable resources and manufacturing salable products. We [will be able to] continue to enjoy the strong beach environment because we [will] have successfully embossed standards on anyone who would pollute them. [I hope we will have] encouraged continued growth of the film industry by working together to find ways to continue to compete. As always [we should] encourage travel and tourism and find new and better ways to manage day trippers and elevated traffic to our beach communities. I envision that more residents will be making the shift from renting to homeownership. I see our hospitals breathing a sigh of relief, because we are taking our federal medicaid money, which the current state leaders have rejected. They will no longer feel the pinch of servicing people who cannot afford to pay. Hopefully, we will have attracted quality teachers to our community because of a renewed commitment to our public education system. Our children [will be] learning, playing and thriving together. We [will have] sown a new era of transparency and cooperation into our government, resulting in us all working together in building a better NC for our people.

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